Ang v. Teodoro (G.R. No. L-48226)

Facts:

Respondent Teodoro has long been using ‘Ang Tibay’ both as trademark and tradename in the manufacture and sale of its slippers, shoes and indoor baseballs when he formally registered it. Meanwhile, petitioner Ang registered the same trademark ‘Ang Tibay’ for its products of pants and shirts. Respondent moved to cancel the registration of petitioner’s mark. The trial court found for petitioner Ang. CA reversed the judgment.  Petitioner argues the validity of the mark being descriptive; that it had not acquired secondary meaning in favor of respondent; and that there can be no infringement/unfair competition because the goods are not similar.

Issues:

(1) Whether or not ‘ANG TIBAY’ is a descriptive term not registrable.

(2) Whether or not the trademark ‘ANG TIBAY’ has acquired a secondary meaning.

(3) Whether or not there is trademark infringement and/or unfair competition between unrelated goods.

Ruling:                              

(1) NO. The phrase “Ang Tibay” is an exclamation denoting administration of strength or durability. For instance, one who tries hard but fails to break an object exclaims, “Ang tibay!” (How strong!”) The phrase “ang tibay” is never used adjectively to define or describe an object. One does not say, “ang tibay sapatos” or “sapatos ang tibay” is never used adjectively to define or describe an object. One does not say, “ang tibay sapatos” or “sapatos ang tibay” to mean “durable shoes,” but “matibay na sapatos” or “sapatos na matibay.” From all of this we deduce that “Ang Tibay” is not a descriptive term within the meaning of the Trade-Mark Law but rather a fanciful or coined phrase which may properly and legally be appropriated as a trademark or tradename. In this connection we do not fail to note that when the petitioner herself took the trouble and expense of securing the registration of these same words as a trademark of her products she or her attorney as well as the Director of Commerce was undoubtedly convinced that said words (Ang Tibay) were not a descriptive term and hence could be legally used and validly registered as a trademark.

(2) NO. In view of the conclusion we have reached upon the first assignment of error, it is unnecessary to apply here the doctrine of “secondary meaning” in trade-mark parlance. This doctrine is to the effect that a word or phrase originally incapable of exclusive appropriation with reference to an article of the market, because geographically or otherwise descriptive, might nevertheless have been used so long and so exclusively by one producer with reference to his article that, in that trade and to that branch of the purchasing public, the word or phrase has come to mean that the article was his product. We have said that the phrase “Ang Tibay,” being neither geographic nor descriptive, was originally capable of exclusive appropriation as a trade-mark. But were it not so, the application of the doctrine of secondary meaning made by the Court of Appeals could nevertheless be fully sustained because, in any event, by respondent’s long and exclusive use of said phrase with reference to his products and his business, it has acquired a proprietary connotation.

(3) YES. In the present state of development of the law on Trade-Marks, Unfair Competition, and Unfair Trading, the test employed by the courts to determine whether noncompeting goods are or are not of the same class is confusion as to the origin of the goods of the second user. Although two noncompeting articles may be classified under two different classes by the Patent Office because they are deemed not to possess the same descriptive properties, they would, nevertheless, be held by the courts to belong to the same class if the simultaneous use on them of identical or closely similar trade-marks would be likely to cause confusion as to the origin, or personal source, of the second user’s goods. They would be considered as not falling under the same class only if they are so dissimilar or so foreign to each other as to make it unlikely that the purchaser would think the first user made the second user’s goods. The Court of Appeals found in this case that by uninterrupted and exclusive use since 1910 of respondent’s registered trade-mark on slippers and shoes manufactured by him, it has come to indicate the origin and ownership of said goods. It is certainly not farfetched to surmise that the selection by petitioner of the same trade-mark for pants and shirts was motivated by a desire to get a free ride on the reputation and selling power it has acquired at the hands of the respondent.

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